Peril looms as Assam, Bengal, Bihar rivers to be linked – Dhaka in dark

Peril looms as Assam, Bengal, Bihar rivers to be linked – Dhaka in dark


New Delhi: Moving forward with its grand plan of linking rivers across the country, India’s Centre on Monday announced that it will take up the task of connecting Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga in Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. The three states will soon be approached for their consent, says a dependeable message received from New Delhi.
This project, if implemented, will not only provide irrigation and water supply benefits to the three states but also make provide large quantity of surplus water for transfer to the southern states.Once these three states agree for to the plan, the Centre will take up the task of preparing a detailed project report (DPR), including the modalities of implementation, water sharing and actual cost of the project.
The Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga link will be the fifth interstate project. While actual execution work on the first project, Ken-Betwa link, will begin by the end of this year, three others are at various stages before being taken up for the Cabinet approval.
READ ALSO: Centre working to build consensus on river interlinking
All these are part of the total 30 interlinking of rivers (ILR) projects, which was conceived during the earlier NDA regime (1999-2004) under the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It includes both interstate- and intrastate-river linking projects.
Decision to take up the Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga for linking was announced by the minister of state for water resources Sanwar Lal Jat after the fifth meeting of the special committee for ILR.
Updating the committee on the status of the ILR projects, Jat said, “Various clearances related to environment, wildlife and forest for the Ken-Betwa link project are in an advanced stage of processing. I hope with all statutory clearance, we will be able to start the actual execution of work on the project by the end of this year”.
He said the government would implement this national project as a model for the entire ILR programme which will go a long way in enhancing water and food security of the country.
READ ALSO: River interlinking to continue ‘despite opposition’
Water resources/irrigation ministers from Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, UP, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh attended the meeting as members of the committee. Some of them were of the view that the ILR projects should be implemented within a definite timeframe.
The water-sharing issue between Maharashtra and Gujarat also came up for discussion during the meeting as both the states had recently taken a tough stand over the ILR projects. It had become a bone of contention between the two states when Gujarat had in April demanded that Maharashtra must agree to share more water from Tapi if it wanted more water from the proposed Damanganga-Pinjal link, which will supply water to Mumbai.
Referring to those links, Jat said the work for preparation of DPR of Par-Tapi-Narmada link project was in concluding stage and it was expected to be completed by this month end. He said the issue of water sharing between both the states in respect to Damanganga-Pinjal and Par-Tapi-Narmada project would be addressed after the completion of the DPR of the Par-Tapi-Narmada link project. – Source: Times of India.
ILR should not be ignored any longer
Senior Delhi environmentalist and writer Sudhirendra Sharma has in a post written that Inter-linking of rivers is an idea that should not be ignored any longer. It’s based on the concept of ‘A garland of rivers across India’
Inter-linking the great rivers of India is a dream that has been around for a while. Many problems that confound the country—flood control, irrigation, limiting droughts and boosting farm output—can be sorted out by linking the country’s rivers in two big garlands. This requires a massive amount of political and financial capital, both scarce commodities. There are signs that the Narendra Modi government may be willing to invest both.
Viewed dispassionately, it is a miracle that India’s irrigation potential rose from 22.6 million hectares (mha) at independence to 113 mha by the end of the 11th five-year plan. This is not enough. As the country’s population grows, the need for better irrigated farmland will only increase. In this context, there are limits to what small and medium irrigation projects can do. While these projects are important for conserving water, their returns from investment are low and their potential is somewhat limited. Beyond a point, India’s geography dictates what needs to be done in this area.
While India boasts of some impressive irrigation projects—including the Bhakra Nangal and Narmada dams—a look at the map of the country shows the strong correlation between water-stressed regions and the distribution of water resources. Most of the water available for irrigation—from rivers, perennial and rain-fed—is to be found in the southwestern and northeastern regions. In contrast, the demand for water is largely in northern India and the eastern part of peninsular India. Local irrigation projects cannot do much unless innovative projects—such as the inter-linking of rivers—are carried out.
Here, by fortuitous circumstance, geography favours plans. A north to south inter-linking of rivers is physically not possible: the barrier imposed by the Vindhya mountains makes it prohibitively expensive to lift water along the north and south axis. It is also unnecessary. The river-water linking plan—one for peninsular India and the other for linking rivers from the east to the north—is an ideal solution for what India needs.
Between 2003 and now, precious little has been done for implementing the project. In the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, a task force on inter-linking of rivers was created under Suresh Prabhu, the current railways minister; nothing much took place beyond the detailed project reports on individual river linking projects. In April, the second NDA government once again created another task force for inter-linking of rivers. The issue now is to move forward instead of replicating the same experience once again. There are plenty of issues to resolve, ones that need political attention.
For one, building consensus among states is essential if these projects are to take off. There are dozens of links in the overall inter-linking plan. One does not need to imagine hard what is required to get those projects started. States have to be convinced of the benefits—even if they are well known. For another some bit of environmental assessment is necessary in case of a project of this magnitude. This need not be of the destructive variety that is designed to derail projects. What is needed is a careful scientific assessment of the project and its impact on the environment, one that is best carried out by academicians.
The other—yet unclear—issue is one of finding the financial and other resources for the task. River inter-linking is an expensive business: from building the link canals to the monitoring and maintenance infrastructure needed requires a tidy sum. Annual budgetary outlays will not do the trick. If one is to create innovative financial schemes required—such as bonds—then investors will need a credible answer on returns to their investment and credible guarantees they want.
None of these issues have been sorted as of now. Playing committee games is an interesting sport but it does precious little for Indians wanting access to water and irrigation. The government needs to get cracking if this project is to succeed at all. – the message says.

Meanwhile a highly placed source in Dhaka told a team of water experts and activists that they were sure that implementation remains an impracticable dream. The source appeared to have no clue to the developments taking place in New Delhi regarding rivers that give life and livelihood to Bangladesh. After the non-signing of the proposed Teesta water sharing treaty during the recent visit, the Indian Prime Minister had only said that birds, water and clouds need no visa to cross political boundaries. Bangladesh’s junior water minister had stated that the issue of water should be looked at through a new prisom.


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